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One-year-old infants follow others’ voice direction

Rossano, F., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2013). One-year-old infants follow others’ voice direction. Psychological Science, 23, 1298-1302. doi:10.1177/0956797612450032.
We investigated 1-year-old infants’ ability to infer an adult’s focus of attention solely on the basis of her voice direction. In Studies 1 and 2, 12- and 16-month-olds watched an adult go behind a barrier and then heard her verbally express excitement about a toy hidden in one of two boxes at either end of the barrier. Even though they could not see the adult, infants of both ages followed her voice direction to the box containing the toy. Study 2 showed that infants could do this even when the adult was positioned closer to the incorrect box while she vocalized toward the correct one (and thus ruled out the possibility that infants were merely approaching the source of the sound). In Study 3, using the same methods as in Study 2, we found that chimpanzees performed the task at chance level. Our results show that infants can determine the focus of another person’s attention through auditory information alone—a useful skill for establishing joint attention.

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